Friday, March 26, 2010

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

This is a new take on a violent school shooting by an angry student in which one teacher and several students died. The cause is believed to be caused by anger at being bullied. The story
is named for a list of people, places, things that first a girl then she and her boy friend made. On it were popular kids who had been calling them names and otherwise mistreating the kids. The final straw seems to be that of a popular female athlete yanking the girl's mp3 player away on the bus and destroying it. The girl says she must pay then turns to boy friend and says make her pay. Valerie did not know that Nick would take her so seriously. Valerie did not know what Nick was planning. Valerie tried to stop the shooting and was injured herself. At least that is the conclusion reached by police investigators. There are those who doubt that. The shooting took place just before the end of the school year. Valerie has been healing from her wounds both physical and mental all summer. Now its time to start her senior year at the same high school at which the shooting took place. Valerie faces all the anxiety, negative reactions, false fronts, lies as best she can. She is an artist and begins painting and drawing to help herself. She seeks refuge first in the commons of the school where no one hangs out anymore then in a counselor's office. She, at first reluctantly helps student council with a memorial for the victims. Her parents were in the process of breaking up, this added to their problems, of course. Neither parent trusts her anymore and she makes matters worse by disappearing for hours as she struggles with the aftermath of the shooting. A younger brother Frankie all but disappears, said to be staying with a friend temporarily. He pops up again here and there but doesn't really fit in the story very well. Its an interesting view of the aftermath of a shooting, from a survivor who may be partly responsible. Its an unsatisfactory ending with Valerie hopping a train and riding into the sunset. That's with her parents who had been distrustful and controlling suddenly completely letting go and with Valerie having no idea where she is going or seemingly why. She seems to be running, giving up away rather than dealing. Her future doesn't look too bright. Maybe that's realistic. I don't know. I would rather have had her travelling to different colleges and art schools looking for a fit than giving up. This is very popular with the teens and mostly a good read. I would recommend it. JDW 3/26/10

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have - Allen Zadoff

Andrew Zansky is a sophomore in high school, involved in Model U.N., studies hard, gets good grades, and he's overweight. He gets picked on at school because of his weight, especially from a bully named Ugo. His parents have split up and he lives with his sister and mother, who's a caterer. He meets April over the summer at one of his mom's catering jobs, and then when school starts up she's going to the same school as Andy. One day Ugo is picking on him when O. Douglas, the quarterback of the football team, saves him from getting beat up. Andy then decides to try out for the football team. He makes it as the new center on the offensive line. He hangs out with O. Douglas who agrees to help him get April interested in him, and in return Andy helps him out with his homework. As it turns out April is more interested in O. Douglas than Andy. As the game against Brookline approaches Andy finds out that the center on last years team got his leg shattered by the Brookline center. Andy begins to question himself about why he went out for football, and is being popular all its cracked up to be.

I loved this book. It was funny and enjoyable. I liked that after Andy got onto the football team he remembered who he was. Yes, he was popular and hanging out with the jocks and cheerleaders. Everyone at school saw him a different way, and not just as an overweight loser. He began to see that being popular and playing football wasn't really who he was, even though he enjoyed it while it lasted.

T.B. 3/25/10

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beige by Castellucci

Although I've read the basic story told here before, the author keeps it fresh by setting it in the true-t0-life punk rock scene in Los Angeles. The basics is teen raised by single parent for so many years that teen isn't interested in absent parent, maybe even dislikes absent parent. One day custodial parent receives an offer too good to miss and decides to send teen to absent parent for the duration with the idea that it is about time the teen gets to know the absent parent.

The idea of spending even a month with this stranger, her father really upsets Katy. He is a drummer of some talent for a punk rock band Suck that is still trying to make it big after all these years of being almost famous. He wants her to be interested in rock music like him and play guitar. She isn't. He has a female friend with a small child and his band practices so he sort of hires the teen daughter of one of the band members to entertain Katy. Neither likes the other much. Lake, has a punk band herself - all girls not yet out of high school, but able to play in all age venues and having a bit of a following. She calls Katy Beige because she seems so blah, uninteresting. In pieces readers learn the complicated relationship between Katy's parents, their struggles with drugs and alcohol addictions and their friendships with Lake's parents and how Lake's mother died of alcohol/drug poisoning. In spite of all her haughty ways Lake is pretty likable and Katy becomes a friend of sorts, even though Katy never completely accepts her father, there is a bit of a relationship beginning in the end. There are words of famous punk rock songs throughout, there are names of bands, there are names of hit songs as well. The story is an interesting fast read. A person could become knowledgeable about the world of punk rock and rock in general from reading this or if already familiar a person could find a comfortable friend.

raven summer by David Almond

Almond writes sort of magical coming of age stories. Liam and his friend Max are middle school age and playing their imaginary games rather than joining the neighborhood kids in organized sports. While they are playing, first a hiker in a red cap, then a raven pass by. The raven seems to be commanding the boys to follow it. The boys do follow and discover a baby left behind in an old ruin. The baby is placed in a foster home with a group of older kids. Liam and Max get lots of publicity for their heroic rescue. Liam's mom and Liam see the baby as a sign. Liam's friend Max has discovered girls and lost interest in the baby and raven. Liam and his mom visit the baby and Liam becomes friends with two of the foster kids. It's hard to tell when, who is telling the truth though. One of the foster parents becomes ill and the baby becomes foster child in Liam's home. His two friends run away from their new home but remain in touch with Liam. Eventually they are found, Liam learns the horrible truth about one of the kids and war. There is a second plot line about a former friend who has grown scary, taunts Liam and has done a very controversial violent art show. Liam contemplates the meaning of all that takes place during this one short period of his life as he is growing up. Teens who don't need a lot of action and who are deep thinkers are likely to be attracted to Almond's quirky story.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Malice - Chris Wooding

Malice, an underground comic who's existence is spread by rumor among kids. As the story opens, Luke and Heather are among the ones who get a copy of Malice and read it. Luke collects six items to summon Tall Jake to take him into the comic, or so the rumor goes. When Luke begins to act strangely, and then disappears the next day, Seth and Kady worry that something is wrong. They get their hands on the next issue of Malice, and find out that Luke is now in the comic. Seth and Kady head and visit Henry Galesworth, who along with his brother were taken by Tall Jake into Malice. Henry returned but with no memory of ever being there. Kady hypnotizes him so he can remember what happened to him in Malice. When they get the information they need, Seth decides to go and get Luke back. After he's gone there, Kady does some more investigating of the distributor of Malice. She finds an issue of Malice with Seth in it confirming what she feared. She also finds out that Tall Jake, Miss Benjamin, Icarus Scratch, and Grendel are responsible for drawing and distributing Malice, and making it a rumor for the kids to spread around. Kady decides that the only way to rescue Luke and Seth by going into Malice. Can Kady get Luke, Seth, and the other kids out of Malice or will she become trapped there as well? To find out read the sequel Havoc, which comes out on May 3rd, 2010, according to Amazon.

I absolutely loved this book. The story keeps you interested till the end, and I loved that parts of the book were in comic book format. It also had that nice mixture of action/adventure with horror added in, which made it an enjoyable book to read.
T.B. 3/14/10

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Wedding By: Nicholas Sparks

The Wedding is a sad but romantic novel about how a man who tries to right his wrongs in order to save his marriage. The main character, Wilson Lewis, is the narrator of the story and he explains how he comes to realize that his wife might be falling out of love with him after thirty years of being together. He tries to do everything he can to save his marriage and make his wife feel like the most special woman in his world again. Can love really conquer all? Is it possible to fall out of love after thirty years? I do not want to go much into detail because the story itself is truly amazing, heartbreaking, and surprising, but I guarantee that if you are a Nicholas Sparks fan, you will not be disappointed with The Wedding. GV

Sunday, March 07, 2010

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

I might not be the best person to review this book since I'm a bit influenced by her other writings, so I'm probably not seeing this book as a stand-alone but how it compares to her other works. Either way, this book has some flaws.

This novel focuses on Jacob Hunt, an eighteen-year-old boy who has Asperger's syndrome. Asperger's is a form of autism where a child can be highly intelligent, but obsessive over a certain topic and unable to read social clues. The children are victims of routine and prone to tantrums when their routine is changed. Overall, these children have their quirks that make them unable to fit into everyday society. Jacob, in this case is obsessed with forensic science and before long, someone connected to Jacob ends up dead, and he's the prime suspect. His mother and lawyer argue, though, that he is merely a victim of his disease, not of homicidal intentions. In the meantime, there's his fifteen-year-old brother who is neglected because the needs of Jacob capture his mother's attention and who also happens to know something about the dead body. So now it's a hunt for the truth and trying to determine whether or not it's right to use Jacob's disability as a defense.

I'm probably too critical of a reader, but I found it hard to fully connect Jacob with his disorder. To begin with, I felt like Asperger's was shoved down my throat in this novel - a description of it and explanation, and everything about it was forced upon me. Yet when it came time to actual "interact" with Jacob, unless he was having an episode, he seemed like a "normal" person. Maybe that's how it is with people who have Asperger's, but from the way I've been forced to understand it from the book, I was expecting something more removed from the realm of normal. Everyone has quirks but that doesn't mean they have Asperger's. This novel was told through multiple narrators and when Jacob was narrating, unless he'd gone off the deep end and was upset, he didn't seem any different from his brother. I didn't feel like the author did a convincing job creating that character. In my opinion, there was too much telling me about the disease and not enough time just showing it to me through the character. That's the first thing that turned me off this novel. Next is the fact that if they just took the time to act one correctly worded question, the whole situation could have been solved - with one question! Since nobody wanted to ask that question or had enough brains to word it correctly, the novel and drama ensued for another 300 pages. It honestly felt like characters remained ignorant to create a longer novel. Yes, I can understand the lawyer not wanting to know the truth for fear of perjury, but the mother would rather doubt her son than hear the truth, even though she claims she'll love him either way. It just became too frustrating. Also, in creating a longer novel, we have the trial which just felt like a repetition of everything stated in the first half of the novel. Finally, we have the ending - no, I'm not going to give it away. However, Jodi Picoult is known for throwing in a twist at the end and this time, it was not only a huge disappointment, but also extremely predictable.

Okay, I'll be the first to admit I'm too critical. I should be able to just pick up a book and go with the flow. However, I can't help being disappointed or frustrated with what I'm reading and this book had so many factors irritating me. I'd be happy to know, though, if you had similar frustrations or if you simply think I'm off my rocker. On a positive note - yes, I am capable of finding the silver lining in a book I didn't enjoy - this novel did a good job of showing a family coming together in a crisis and the risks we're willing to take for the ones we love.